I'm constantly grumbling about Americans remaking Asian films -- the idea of Steven Spielberg trying to redo Park Chan-wook's Oldboy with Will Smith is potentially the most cringe-worthy of them all -- so, to be fair, I suppose I should be complaining that a Japanese remake of Alexander Payne's Sideways recently started filming in Napa Valley, California, according to Variety. But an unrelated comic book may hold the key to the remake's appeal.
Payne's superb tale of romantic yearning and mid-life anxiety famously centers on wine snob Paul Giamatti (he praised pinot noir and derided merlot) and his much coarser buddy Thomas Haden Church as they wine, dine, and romance Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. The movie's success caused a strong surge in sales of pinor noir in the US.
Japan doesn't seem to have an equivalent wine culture; owing to weather, soil, and scarcity of land, the country is not well-suited to viticulture, and, historically, wine consumpton has been low. Recently, though, California wine imports have signficantly increased. And the comic Kami no Shizuku (translated as The Drops of God; pictured) has become a phenomenon over the last couple of years, read by 500,00 Japanese weekly, according to Telegraph (UK), and sending wine sales skyrocketing across Asia. The series details a young man's quest to identify the 12 wines described in his father's will.
Whatever the original impetus for the live-action remake, it could prove to be equally influential whenever it's released in Japan next fall. Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, The Brothers Bloom) plays the wildcat role originally played by Oh, while the other main parts are filled by Fumiyo Kohinata (wine snob), Katsuhisa Namase (his buddy), and Kyoka Suzuki (object of wine snob's romantic attentions).